A SHORT ESSAY ON THE BIG PICTURE
If you're not moving things forward, what are you doing?
No matter how you slice it, humanity is a far cry from where it could be. The scale of suffering and inequality that we allow is staggering. While it's easy to brush off this line of thinking as dramatic, we all have moments when this truth is brought into focus — whether hearing of it from afar, or experiencing it first-hand.
In our lifetimes, each of us has a very small but very real impact on the world around us — an opportunity to make things ever so slightly better. A significant part of that impact is which companies we choose to buy from. With every one of these decisions, we are voting — in every bit as important a way as the political sense. The efficacy of supply and demand makes commerce a prime mechanism for societal improvement. It comes down to what we demand.
Traditionally, what we've demanded has been rather two-dimensional. We've evaluated products only on their immediate value to us, and we've judged companies' performance solely by their financial returns.
Recently, though, our definition of what constitutes a desirable brand has been evolving. We've begun holding companies accountable for all aspects of their conduct, in much the same way we do our fellow citizens — which makes sense, because what is a company but a group of our fellow citizens?
We're coming to understand that everything is connected — that we are not separate from one another or from our planet. Just as we admire fellow citizens who add value to the community, we gravitate towards companies whose overall contribution makes the world a better place.
This idea of overall contribution is critical. Many companies engage in seemingly progressive initiatives, all the while conducting themselves questionably in many aspects of their core business. This kind of selective nobility is, in some ways, the most disappointing. Every company should make its primary focus refining the way it carries out its core business, because that is always where it can have the most impact. Until then, resources spent elsewhere represent a misallocation at best and a diversion at worst.
Even with the marketplace evolving, demand alone is not enough to bring about the change that's needed. We need organizations to go beyond what is demanded of them, and do what's right before anyone is forcing them to do it. We need visionaries with unshakable resolve to pursue progress for the sake of progress, and then inspire people to come along for the ride.
At the root of all of this is a quality that doesn't necessarily have a word in the English language: The resolve to do what's right, even when no one's looking. The inherent elegance to doing so is all the motivation a true leader needs. It is, in every sense, the most profitable path.